Coastal Mountaineering

exploring BC's coastlines and mountain ranges

Trip Log

We are truly privileged to get to experience the north.

Click on the image below to see our route so far, including all our campsites, wrong turns we took, and peaks we climbed!

Scroll down to read a brief account of the trip or click here to see the statistics.

total distance travelled: 2456 km

total nights in the tent: 75

polar bears seen: 2

longest stretch without seeing another person or boat: 25 days

communities visited: 12

peaks climbed: 8

times we’ve bear sprayed ourselves: 1

next community: 650 km (Kugluktuk)


Journal

Year 1: May 31, 2022 – August , 2022

We started our adventure from Hay River, Northwest Territories. Despite some great local advise, we launched our boats onto an ice-covered Great Slave Lake, expecting to have a difficult time. The water level was extremely high and finding camping was challenging. It was an eye-opening start as we hauled our boats for twelve hours straight to escape the ice of the lake and get onto the river. We paddled down the Mackenzie over the next 45 days, taking our time to stop in every settlement on the Deh Cho and to do some hikes along the way. It was a remarkable experience and the first big river either of us had ever paddled. It definitely humbled us. Wildlife was abundant along the river and the communities we visited were steeped in history and incredibly friendly and welcoming. We navigated the shifting sandbars, bugs, and fog of the Mackenzie Delta to finally dip our paddles into the Arctic Ocean. We were storm bound for a few days near Whitefish Station, having to move our tent twice to avoid the storm surge.

After nearly a week in Tuk waiting for ice to move off of Toker Point, we launched our boats into the Arctic Ocean en route for Paulatuk or beyond. Just out of town, we stopped briefly to let a NW wind die down and spent time with Noel and his partner at their summer camp. They would be the last people we would see for 25 days. The next morning we saw our first polar bear, watching with trepidation as it swam past our camp. We paddled continuously for the next six days into a headwind, but the sea state remained calm. The country was stunning, the sand and green tundra seemed infinite. Caribou grazed on one horizon while ice lingered on the other. Rounding Cape Dalhousie was a dream of calm weather, rainbows, and icebergs and soon we saw our first barren ground grizzly – dark brown and gorgeous.

We crossed to Nicholson Island, just missing endurance athlete Karl Kruger on his solo journey through the NWP. Ice greeted us in the middle of Liverpool Bay. The next week was incredibly cold and wet and we continued into a stiff wind. We visited the long abandoned community and Catholic Mission at Stanton. It was eerie in the mist. The coastline changed dramatically with hills as high as 60 m and cliffs of collapsing permafrost – we even started to see rocks again, instead of the sand of Tuk Peninsula.

Our brown bear sightings rose steeply over the next few days, but the weather also improved drastically. While the wind remained strong out of the east, the sun shone for five days straight. This was a great morale boost, as were the beluga we saw rubbing in the shallows of the Mason River. We inspected a long abandoned hunting camp and found a muskox skull that had eroded from the permafrost cliffs of Cape Wolki. Approaching Cape Bathurst was challenging in a strong headwind, but our timing paid off with a group of muskox meeting us at our northern most point on the entire journey. The following day, we paddled 80 km around the cape to the mouth of the Horton River in following seas and tail winds. The Martian landscape of the Smoking Hills – a hundred kilometer long line of sedimentary cliffs and permafrost smoking from an ignited coal seam – was the most spectacular place either of us had ever paddled.

Strong wind and big swell kept us shore-bound for four days near the Horton. We climbed up to the Malloch Hill DEW site and enjoyed great views over the Horton River. On the morning of day three a polar bear swam past our camp and the next morning large tracks circled our fire. It was time to leave – we paddled out on the end of storm, staying on the water until 4 AM when we pulled up on a beautiful gravel beach backed by rolling hills of tundra and dotted with caribou. We paddled our way deep into Franklin Bay and elected to portage Parry Peninsula to Argo Bay.

The portage route took two days and aside from one lengthy haul, consisted mostly of paddling on freshwater tundra lakes and clear shallow rivers. The change from the coast was drastic – both in the landscape and in our stress levels. Being on the coast we constantly felt on the edge. On the tundra we felt at ease, and enjoyed having water easily available, being unconcerned about the wind, and not worrying about every white object in the distance. The end of our route came out in Argo Bay and we met many members of the community of Paulatuk out hunting, berry picking, and enjoying the land.

We spent over a week in Paulatuk as we happened to arrive just in time for the community Jamboree – an annual celebration of community and culture. It was an amazing time and we felt incredibly welcomed by the community. After lots of discussion, we elected to end our trip for the 2022 season in Paulatuk and stored our boats with Parks Canada. We will continue in July 2023, with the goal of reaching Gjoa Haven – having plans in the Arctic seems a bit frivolous now though!


The Stats

For anyone interested in more detailed stats check out the document below. You can see daily distance, time on the water, days paddled, and lots more super fun stats!

Coming Soon

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